A weekend to remember
My Romanian friend called me a month ago and suggested meeting up in Veliko Tarnovo (VT). What a nice surprise I thought, not only I would meet a dear friend but also explore the capital of the second Bulgarian kingdom. All in all, we had a great weekend together and I am keen to tell you all about it. The town attracts a lot of tourists from near and from far. For example, the Romanian capital Bucharest is only 3 hour’s drive away. The town is full of hotels and restaurants, as well as, a number of popular tourist attractions. These include Tsarevets, the Archaeological Museum, Park “Mini Bulgaria”, Samovodska Charshia, Asenevtsi Monument, Hadji Nikoli Inn, and more.
While in VT, why not give camping a go?
We decided to stay away from the busy streets of VT and chose overnight accommodation at a nearby camping site. The beautiful Veliko Tarnovo camping site, owned by husband and wife Nick and Nicky, is only 15 minutes drive from town. They offer digital nomads and campervan enthusiasts the perfect outdoor location for a breath of fresh air. Their beautiful site offers breathtaking views of the Balkan Mountains, as well as an outdoor swimming pool in a carefully looked-after garden. We enjoyed the comfortable glamping hut available with its own decking, sunlit table, and chairs. Our hosts have transformed the area with a lot of hard work and determination. If you want to find out more about them, visit their website https://campingvelikotarnovo.com/. The town and the surrounding area are a magnet for British Expats. There is even a car boot sale in the nearby village of Hotnitsa. It takes place every second Saturday of every month. Bring your spare cash and go on a bargain hunt.
And so, we go to explore VT…
I have to admit we were unlucky with the weather, the rain was on and off during most of the weekend. However, it did not stop us from visiting the medieval fortress Tsarevets. A family ticket costs 15 BGN. VT is surrounded by hills and Tsarevets is one of them. The citadel was home to kings and queens of the second Bulgarian kingdom. The 15-minute walk up to the top is rewarded with a 360-degree view of the area. From here, we could see Trapezitsa, a fortified quarter of the once capital. Back in the day, there would have been soldiers marching and guarding the passes to and from the castle. A center stage takes the meander of the river Yantra, graciously bending at the foot of each hill. It is all very green and pleasing to the eye.
After an hour’s walk, we sat down for lunch in the nearby “The Green” restaurant. I had the best ever homemade pita bread and a bottle of a local beer, “Boliarka”. However, my personal preference would be another Veliko Tarnovo drink, “Britos” ale. After lunch, we headed for the old town and a well-known pedestrians-only area known as Samovodska Charshia, where craftsmen preserve to this very day the traditional methods of making decorative designs and handicrafts. Here you can find Pottery, Silversmiths, Knifemakers, Weavers, and Woodcarvers. There are also plenty of little coffee shops for you to sit down and relax.
Next on the road, is the Hadji Nikoli Inn with its unique architecture from the age of the Bulgarian Renaissance. A famous Tarnovo merchant commissioned the building. Nikola Fichev, both architect and builder, brought this project to life in 1858. Master Kolyo Ficheto, as he is more commonly known, was born in Dryanovo in 1800. A further 5-minute’ walk will take you to another one of his iconic buildings known as the “House with the Monkey” built in 1849. Now, look around you and you will notice a change in the style of architecture. As you approach the west end of “Stambolov” street and the beginning of “Independence” Boulevard reveal a different side to Veliko Tarnovo.
History gives way to a modern European town
There appears to be a seamless transition from the old town to the new, more modern part of Veliko Tarnovo. One of the main squares in town is called “Mother Bulgaria”. Here you find a monument with the same name dedicated to those who gave their lives in the wars for independence and the First World War. It is situated vis-à-vis the municipality hall and a stone’s throw away from the university. An iconic clock in the middle of a colorful flower garden delights visitors to this central part of town.
And if this was not enough, we ended the walk in the beautiful park “Marno Pole”. There are plenty of flower beds and an eye-catching water feature with fountains. The park is also home to an open-air theater featuring rock concerts throughout the summer months.
An interesting fact
22nd of March is the day for the annual town celebrations, commemorating the victory of King Ivan Asen 2 (the second) over Theodore Komnenos, ruler of Epirus (nowadays western Greece). The battle took place near Klokotnitsa in 1230.